MARK YOUR CALENDAR: TAN’s In-Person Annual Meeting Slated for Oct. 18 in Dallas
TAN’s annual meeting will be held on Wednesday, Oct. 18, 2023, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at 14785 Preston Road in Dallas, the location of the offices of the Combined Group.
The meeting will include presentations on regulatory issues of interest to nonsubscribers, a deep dive into the results of the 2023 state legislative session, the always popular legal panel, a report on how the 2024 elections are shaping up, a presentation on the new Texas Business Court, an update on all things OSHA, and more.
Lunch will be provided.
The event is free to TAN members. Registration for the event is now open. Click here to register.
A brief Organization Meeting will be held via Zoom on Sept. 13 to provide the membership with an update on the impeachment proceedings of Attorney General Ken Paxton, which begin on September 5.
DWC to Review Key Sections of State WC Laws, Public Input Invited
The Texas Department of Insurance, Division of Workers’ Compensation (DWC), will review all sections in the following chapters of Title 28, Texas Administrative Code:
- Chapter 102 (Practices and Procedures — General Provisions);
- Chapter 104 (General Provisions — Rule-Making);
- Chapter 109 (Workers’ Compensation Coverage for State Employees);
- Chapter 110 (Required Notices of Coverage);
- Chapter 112 (Scope of Liability for Compensation);
- Chapter 114 (Self-Insurance); and
- Chapter 116 (General Provisions — Subsequent Injury Fund).
The notice of proposed review was published in the Aug. 25, 2023, issue of the Texas Register and is available at www.sos.state.tx.us/texreg/index.shtml. A copy is also posted on the TDI website at www.tdi.texas.gov/wc/rules/rulereview.html.
DWC is accepting public comments on whether the reasons for initially adopting these rules continue to exist, and whether these rules should be repealed, readopted, or readopted with amendments in accordance with Texas Government Code §2001.039.
Those interested in doing so may send written comments or hearing requests to RuleComments@tdi.texas.gov or to:
Legal Services, MC-LS
Texas Department of Insurance, Division of Workers’ Compensation
P.O. Box 12050
Austin, Texas 78711-2050
The deadline to submit comments is 5 p.m. Central time on Oct. 3, 2023.
DWC may consider any suggested repeals or amendments identified during this rule review in future rule-making under Texas Government Code, Chapter 2001 (Administrative Procedure).
Legislature Creates Court to Focus on Business Disputes
Texas will soon join nearly 30 other states with specialized business courts with the creation of the Texas Business Court, approved during the recent legislative session.
Texas currently has more than 200 specialized courts dealing with probate, juvenile, family and veteran issues, but had lacked a court that could deal specifically with complex business issues. The new business court will have jurisdiction over complex business law cases with more than $10 million in dispute. It will handle cases filed on or after Sept. 1, 2024. Judges will be appointed by the governor but must have at least 10 years’ experience practicing complex civil business litigation, practicing business transaction law, or serving as a judge of a Texas state court with civil jurisdiction.
Proponents argue a business court will help address backlogs in district court dockets across the state, as other cases often receive priority over business litigation, causing many business conflicts to languish in the Texas court system for years.
Additionally, complex business disputes concerning specific matters such as mergers and acquisitions, corporate governance, and securities issues are often unevenly distributed throughout the judicial system, which can lead to inconsistent decisions and approaches in these cases.
Texas Business Court judges will be required to issue written opinions on their cases, which is expected to create and document precedent for Texas business law. That, in turn, should help organizations interpret how Texas judges apply precedent.
Phase One of the implementation plan for the court will include five divisions overseeing the major metro areas, with additional divisions to be added to cover all 11 existing judicial administrative divisions.
A presentation on the new Texas Business Court by Lee Parsley, general counsel for Texans for Lawsuit Reform, will be included in TAN’s annual meeting, scheduled for Oct. 18 in Dallas.
Report Shows Decline in Cost Per WC Claim
A new study from the Workers Compensation Research Institute (WCRI) finds that despite a rapid increase in consumer inflation from 2021-2022, the average medical cost per workers’ compensation claim declined during both years.
However, the study notes that health care costs typically lag inflation, which could mean higher costs are still possible. Overall inflation reached a high of 9% in 2022 before falling to 3.2% in August 2023.
According to the study, the average medical cost per workers’ compensation claim dropped 4% in 2021 and 2% in 2022. It attributes the decreases to the COVID-19 pandemic, as nonemergency surgeries were delayed and injured workers avoided health care facilities.
The study cites workers’ compensation fee schedules as effective tools to temper medical inflation for professional prices to levels at or below those in the general health care system.
Medical costs in general increased 4.3% in 2022 and 1.9% in 2021, according to the Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers.
Information on downloading or purchasing the report is available here.
Feds Seek to Restore Rule Allowing Designated Worker Inclusion During OSHA Inspections
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) wants to restore an Obama administration policy to allow workers to designate an employee or union representative to represent them during OSHA walk-around inspections. The Obama policy was rescinded by the Trump administration.
The effort to revive the Obama administration policy takes the form of a proposed new rule submitted by OSHA, which reached the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs on July 17.
An OSHA filing says, “this rulemaking will clarify the right of workers and certified bargaining units to specify a worker or union representative to accompany an OSHA inspector during the inspection process/facility walkaround, regardless of whether the representative is an employee of the employer, if in the judgment of the Compliance Safety and Health Officer such person is reasonably necessary to an effective and thorough physical inspection.”
The Trump administration rescinded the rule after a suit from the National Federation of Independent Business sued OSHA, arguing the rule would allow unions to threaten small businesses. Other business groups argued the rule could make an organization’s proprietary information vulnerable.
Safety Index Study Highlights Leading Causes of Workplace Injuries
Overexertion, slips, trips and falls are still the leading causes of workplace injuries, according to the Liberty Mutual 2023 Workplace Safety Index. However, the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in two new additions to the top 10 ranking of most expensive nonfatal workplace injuries; “exposure to other harmful substances” and “pedestrian vehicular accidents” were in the top 10 for the first time.
The workplace safety index reflects data from 2020 and shows U.S. businesses and organizations paid $58.61 billion in direct costs in 2020 for nonfatal workplace injuries that resulted in five or more missed days from work. The amount compares to $58.05 billion in 2019.
Overexertion again was the most expensive injury category, with a direct cost of $12.8 billion to employers. The rest of the top five were, in order, falls on same level; falls to lower level; struck by object or equipment; and other exertions or bodily reactions (awkward postures). These top five injury causes accounted for 62.7% of the total direct cost of disabling injuries.
The remaining injury causes ranked six through 10 accounted for 19.5% of the direct cost of disabling injuries. Exposure to other harmful substances — the category that includes exposure to COVID-19 and other causes of serious illness — was the sixth most frequent injury type in 2020 and cost employers $3.3 billion that year. It was followed by vehicle crashes; caught in or compressed by equipment or objects; slips or trips without a fall; and pedestrian vehicular accidents, at number 10.
According to the index, pedestrian vehicular accidents cost employers $1.6 billion in 2020 and likely reflect challenges COVID-19 placed on supply chains, security, delivery services and parking lot operations.
The Liberty Mutual 2023 Workplace Safety Index is available here.
Surveys Highlight Worker Mental Health and Physical Well-Being
A pair of separate surveys released recently indicate workers’ mental health and physical well-being are worsening, even as C-suite executives underestimate how bad workers feel.
A survey from the American Psychological Association (APA) shows 19% of workers say their workplace is very or somewhat toxic. Additionally, 22% said they have experienced harassment and harm to their mental health at work in the past 12 months. Meanwhile, a survey from Deloitte found only 3% of C-suite executives believe their employees’ physical and mental health worsened in the past year.
More than 1 in 5 workers (22%) surveyed by APA say they have witnessed discrimination in their current workplace and 15% report they experienced discrimination. More than a quarter (28%) reported having witnessed negative slights, insults or jokes that devalued the identity or negated the thoughts and feelings of others based on their identity or background. Nearly one-fifth (19%) of workers said they had been the target of these behaviors.
However, 77% of workers reported being very (36%) or somewhat (41%) satisfied with the support for mental health and well-being they receive from their employers.
In the Deloitte survey, 25% of employees said their mental health had worsened in the past year, while 23% said their physical well-being had declined. In contrast, more than 3 out of 4 C-suite executives surveyed believe their employees’ physical and mental health improved in the past year.
APA’s 2023 Work in America Survey was conducted in April by The Harris Poll among 2,515 employed adults nationwide. Deloitte’s Well-Being at Work Survey surveyed nearly 3,200 C-suite executives, managers and employees in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom and Australia in March.
The APA survey is available here.
The Deloitte survey is available here.
OSHA Releases Free Videos Focused on Employee Mental Health
The U.S. Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) has released three free online videos with tips for organizations to support mental health for employees. OSHA says employee mental health should be a part of every organization’s safety program.
The videos come as increased attention is being placed on employee mental health. According to the most recent Gallup National Health and Wellbeing Index, workers with fair or poor mental health are estimated to have nearly 12 days of unplanned absences annually, compared with 2.5 days for all other workers, resulting in $47.6 billion annually in lost productivity.
A separate report from the nonprofit Mental Health America finds 80% of employees agree that the stress from work affects their relationships with friends, family and co-workers, and 71% find it difficult to concentrate at work.
Mental Health America says that organizations that invest in developing supportive managers are correlated with overall healthier workplace scores, but that only 40% of employees agree that their company invests in developing supportive managers. Some 34% of employees state that their company’s leadership speaks openly about mental health, and 46% of companies provide mental health training.
The OSHA videos are available here.
Businesses Struggle With Getting Workers Back Into the Workplace
Nearly 3 out of 4 organizations say they continue to have problems convincing employees to return to the workplace full-time. A similar number report major difficulties finding and retaining workers.
Those are among the key findings from The Conference Board 2023 Reimagined Workplace survey. The survey also found employee well-being is declining.
Surveyed HR leaders report that 76% of professional and office workers continue to work remotely at least part of the time. However, 73% of respondents report difficulty getting workers back to the office, and 68% of respondents say they are considering or implementing strategies to increase on-site work.
Finding qualified workers and retaining talent continues to plague organizations, especially those employing mostly manual services workers. According to the survey, 88% of organizations employing mostly manual services workers report difficulty finding qualified workers, as do 75% of those employing mostly office workers. Similarly, 68% of organizations employing mostly manual services workers report difficulty retaining workers, as do 54% of those employing mostly office workers.
The survey also found troubling trends about decreases in employee well-being: 43% of surveyed HR leaders report decreased employee mental health compared to six months ago; 32% report decreased sense of belonging/inclusion; 31% report lower levels of employee engagement; and 30% report a decrease in employee intent to stay.
The survey of 185 business executives was conducted from April 25 through May 14, 2023, and is available here.
Texas Company Cited After Fatal Crane Collapse
The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration announced Thursday that it cited a Texas construction company after a worker died in a crane collapse in March. Click here for full article.
My Texas Daily
Texas Physical Therapy Chain Accused Of Defrauding Federal Workers Compensation Program
Two operators of a state-wide chain of physical therapy clinics, known as Texas Federal Wellness Center, have been charged with defrauding a federal worker’s compensation program, according to U.S. Attorney Alamdar S. Hamdani. Click here for full article.
Rental Car Worker Shot During Shift Not Entitled To Comp: Court
A Florida appellate court on Wednesday overturned a workers compensation judge’s decision allowing comp benefits for a rental car company employee who was shot during a shift. Click here for full article.
Group Recommends 15% Rate Drop For Florida Workers’ Comp Policies
Florida businesses will continue to see decreases in their workers’ compensation rates in 2024. Click here for full article.
Office of the West Virginia Governor
Workers’ Compensation Insurance Rates To Drop For 19th Straight Year, More Good News For West Virginia Businesses
Governor Jim Justice announced today that the National Council on Compensation Insurance (NCCI), West Virginia’s rating and statistical agent, has filed a proposed workers’ compensation loss cost decrease of 12.7%, effective Nov. 1, 2023. Click here for full article.
Use of Shell Companies in Construction to Evade Taxes, Workers’ Comp On the Rise
The workers’ compensation industry and state and federal tax authorities are losing hundreds of millions of dollars every year from fraud schemes involving shell companies in the construction industry, federal authorities are warning. Click here for full article.
U.S. Workers Comp Insurers Continue To Underwrite Profitability: Triple-I
According to a report by the Insurance Information Institute (Triple-I), U.S. workers compensation insurers could underwrite profitably between 2019 and 2022 in spite of significant changes within the nation’s workforce due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Click here for full article.
Delays In Federal Workers’ Comp Can Stall Medical Care, Turning Injuries Into Disabilities
Injured federal employees say their treatable injuries are at risk of progressing into lifelong disabilities because the workers’ compensation program that covers their medical costs and procedures is clogged by low staffing, convoluted processes and an increase in claims. Click here for full article.
Property Casualty 360
How Job & Wage Growth Is Affecting Workers’ Comp
The U.S. labor market continues to show strength, with employment increasing an average of 200,000 jobs a month during the second quarter, which is above the average pre-pandemic growth of around 150,000 jobs, according to the latest quarterly economic briefing from the National Council on Compensation Insurance (NCCI). Click here for full article.
Shot-at FedEx Driver, Now on Workers’ Comp, Has Been Fired, Attorney Says
A Black FedEx delivery driver who says two white men shot at and chased him in Mississippi in 2022 has now been fired from his job, he and his attorney said Monday. Click here for full article.
The Future of Workplace Safety Technology Is Now – Part One – The Carrier Perspective
There’s a growing buzz in workers compensation that technology, the workplace, and the role of workers are changing more dramatically today and at a faster pace than ever before. Click here for full article.
Recent Study Suggests Football Players at Greater Risk of Parkinson’s Disease
Symptoms of Parkinson’s disease (PD) are varied, ranging from tremors, rigid muscles, and slowed movement to speech and writing changes, and impaired balance. One of the hallmarks of PD is the presence of Lewy bodies, which are protein deposits in the brain that effect the thinking, movement, and memory portions of the brain. Click here for full article.
The Knox Student
U.S. Workers Compensation Market to See Incredible Growth during [2023-2031]
The goal of this extensive research project is to present a thorough and well-researched report on the global U.S. Workers Compensation market. Click here for full article.
Property Casualty 360
Trends In Workers’ Compensation: How Safe Is Your Hybrid Workforce?
Workers’ compensation insurance protects businesses and their workforce by providing benefits to employees who are injured on the job. Click here for full article.
Workers’ Compensation Remains Profit Engine for U.S. P/C Insurers
Workers’ compensation insurers’ underwriting results continued to outpace the rest of the U.S. property/casualty (P/C) commercial sector in 2022, as they benefited from the long-term decline in workplace accidents and a reduction in fraudulent claims, according to an AM Best report. Click here for full article.
Median Days Away From Work Due To Nonfatal Occupational Injuries And Illnesses In The United States In 2020, By Industry Sector
In 2020, the median days away from work after a nonfatal work injury or illness in the construction industry stood at 11 days. The information industry had the highest number of median days away from work, at 16 days. Click here for full article.
Study: Cannabis Use During Off-Hours Not Associated with Elevated Risk of Workplace Accidents
Employees who consume cannabis during their off-hours possess no greater risk of occupational injury than do those who abstain from marijuana altogether, according to data published this week in the Canadian Journal of Public Health. Click here for full article.
Amazon Selects CLARA Analytics to Improve Workers’ Compensation Claims Outcomes Using Artificial Intelligence
Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN) has selected CLARA Analytics (“CLARA”), the leading provider of artificial intelligence (AI) technology in the commercial insurance industry, as its technology partner for a new program aimed at improving health and claim outcomes for their corporate workers’ compensation claims. Click here for full article.
Long COVID Present In 6% Of Comp Claims: Study
Six percent of workers with compensation claims for COVID-19 developed long COVID, according to a study released Thursday by the Workers Compensation Research Institute. Click here for full article.
Left Or Right Arm: Choosing Where To Get Vaccinate Matters, Study Suggests. Here’s Why
When you roll up your sleeve to get routine vaccinations, do you prefer a jab in your right or left arm? New data suggests the choice you make matters. Click here for full article.
One Gross Habit Could Increase Your Risk of Catching COVID-19
Another reason not to pick your nose, besides it being rather unseemly and possibly linked to dementia, is that it may increase your risk of catching COVID-19, according to a newly published study. Click here for full article.
The New York Times
Three Shots for Fall: What You Need to Know
Most Americans have had one or more shots of the flu and Covid vaccines. New this year are the first shots to protect older adults and infants from respiratory syncytial virus, a lesser-known threat whose toll in hospitalizations and deaths may rival that of flu. Click here for full article.
Experts Warn The U.S. Lacks COVID Resources As Cases Tick Up Again
A recent uptick in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations is hinting at how the virus will keep raising a predictable seasonal threat. But experts warn the U.S. is lacking critical tools to help manage future waves. Click here for full article.
What to Do If You Catch COVID-19 This Summer
COVID-19 cases are once again on the rise in the U.S., with data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) showing virus-related hospital admissions, positive test rates, and wastewater indicators trending upward. Click here for full article.
U.S. News & World Report
Pfizer: FDA Authorization for Updated COVID-19 Vaccine Expected in August
Progress toward an updated COVID-19 shot in the fall is inching forward. Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla this week said that the Food and Drug Administration could authorize his company’s new vaccine by the end of the month ahead of a potential fall and winter coronavirus wave. Click here for full article.
Why Rising COVID Hospitalizations Should Not Necessarily Be A Cause For Concern
After several months of steady declines, COVID-19 hospitalizations appear to be ticking up again. Click here for full article.
Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis
Scientists Develop Breath Test That Rapidly Detects COVID-19 Virus
Scientists at Washington University in St. Louis have developed a breath test that quickly identifies those who are infected with the virus that causes COVID-19. The device requires only one or two breaths and provides results in less than a minute. Click here for full article.